Paola Mora Zepeda
In the wake of the destructive tornadoes that tore through Middle Tennessee on Saturday, December 9, 2023, dedicated volunteers from the Kentucky-Tennessee Conference stepped up to help the affected communities. These volunteers, many of whom came through the Conference’s disaster relief ministry, helped in various aspects of the recovery process.
Some of the key initiatives undertaken by the volunteers involved the cleanup of debris-strewn areas, cutting up fallen trees, helping homeowners tarp their roofs and look for valuable possessions among the destroyed properties. According to Mike Hewitt, Conference vice president for administration and coordinator of the Conference’s disaster relief ministries, these opportunities for community assistance are as much a blessing for those affected as they are for those lending a helping hand.
“Every time I do this, it just makes me feel like I’m making a difference in the community,” said Hewitt. “Not only am I helping people meet their needs, but I’m also hopefully helping leave them with something that’s going to bring them closer to Jesus.”
Over the last year, the Kentucky-Tennessee Conference, in collaboration with the Collegedale-based ministry, 2Serve, has been offering Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training for interested church members. Through these efforts, more than 50 individuals in the Conference are now CERT certified.
“Our goal is to find more churches that are interested in CERT training,” said Hewitt. “We want more trained volunteers across the entire Conference because the reality is that disasters, whether they be tornadoes, floods, or any unforeseen events, can occur anywhere.”
In addition, thanks to donations from church members, the Conference has successfully purchased a pickup truck and a 20-foot-long trailer fully equipped with generators, water pumps, and essential tools all necessary for the relief efforts. Hewitt says this investment is important as it provides tangible objects used to demonstrate Jesus’ love.
Johnny Rodman, from the Oasis Church in Tennessee, has been a constant disaster relief volunteer for the past two years. He helped in the December 2021 Mayfield, Ky., tornado, and the July 2022, Hazard, Ky., flash flood relief efforts. Rodman says helping out during these difficult times has grown his faith and strengthened his sense of purpose.
“This ministry is so important because it’s reaching out to the people that are in devastation, that are in the darkness, that have lost absolutely everything,” said Rodman. “I feel this overwhelming sensation that the Lord is going to take care of me as long as I’m doing His ministry …. I always pray, ‘Lord, let them not see me, but let them see Your work.’”
As the recovery process continues, the Conference remains dedicated to assisting in the rebuilding efforts, emphasizing the importance of long-term support for those affected.
Kentucky-Tennessee | February 2024